Book 31 Chapter 12 – The Battle of the Gangs
Xu Ziling told Gao Zhandao the identity, which was concocted by Lei Jiuzhi – that he was currently using, “I am now a traveling merchant from Shandong, specializing in satin business. There is a satin shop in the West Market that is doing business with me, also a place where I can stay for a time. The name I am using is Yong Qin. Not only my martial art skill outstanding, I am also a proficient gambler. The weapon that I am adept in using is a pair of refined steel arm protectors, engraved with two characters ‘Yong Qin’.”
Gao Zhandao sighed and said, “Xu Ye’s thought is very thorough. But since this matter arises, Xu Ye definitely must not use your real martial art skill, because the number of men with skill like two Ye’er can be counted on one’s fingers. Once you revealed your true skill, it might immediately provoke suspicions. I wonder what identity Kou Ye is using now?”
Xu Ziling leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Naturally, just like me, he also use fake identity and a fake face. But for the time being you must not let the other brothers to know that we are already in Chang’an. Tonight, you and Fengyi, Xiao Jie, wait for us here. I might come back with Shao Shuai to discuss our plan with you.”
Gao Zhandao’s spirit greatly aroused, he said, “Finally! I’ve been waiting for this day! I really wish we could leave Chang’an tomorrow.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “Don’t you have the slightest amount of good opinion toward Chang’an?”
Snorting disdainfully, Gao Zhandao said, “Sooner or later the Great Tang Emperor’s throne will fall into Li Jiancheng’s hands, and then this place has nothing that makes me want to stay.”
Xu Ziling revealed a thoughtful look.
He remembered Li Shimin once said that he was afraid Li Jiancheng might become another muddleheaded ruler like Yang Guang, so he understood Gao Zhandao’s – who deeply felt Yang Guang’s tyranny, which caused family bankrupt and the people dead – disgust toward a tyrant.
He was about to speak when from outside the shop came the chaotic noise of people bickering. The two men looked at each other in surprise.
Gao Zhandao stood up abruptly; the bright light in his eyes flared out, a clear sign that he had made considerable progress in his power cultivation. “Trouble is here!” he spoke in heavy voice.
Kou Zhong busily tried to remedy the situation, “Although Xiaoren did not know what happened to Madame, but based on Xiaoren’s experience, the kind of illness that Madame suffers ought to be due to the awakening passion between men and women, hence I reckon Madame ought to have a broken heart in the past. I wonder if Xiaoren has guessed incorrectly?”
Qingqing stared blankly at his ugly face for quite half a day; letting out a faint, light sigh, her eyes shot out reminiscing look, as she said in a daze, “Mo Xiansheng is only half right. It was because qie has done something that forgets favor and violates justice that my heart feels guilty, always thinking of this mistake, which is difficult to amend. Perhaps it is because of this matter that Xiansheng determined that the illness is due to pent-up frustrations.”
Staring blankly, Kou Zhong asked, “Did Madame ever talk about this matter with anybody?”
Smiling bitterly, Qingqing said, “What’s the use of telling people? Merely remembering this matter, it is difficult for qie’s heart to be happy, yet I cannot forget it. Mo Xiansheng, tell me, what should qie do?”
Kou Zhong lifted up his three fingers. Taking out his copper case, he said with a laugh, “If Madame trusts Xiaoren, please tell me what happened. Xiaoren vows to keep Madame’s secret safe, perhaps Xiaoren will be able to ease Madame’s anxiety; furthermore, I can bring Madame’s chronic illness under permanent control.”
Qingqing stared blankly at Kou Zhong opening his copper case and taking out a moxibustion needle. She said, “Qie has a strange feeling; I feel like Xiansheng is closely related to qie’s past. Have we ever met before?”
Kou Zhong’s hand holding the needle trembled slightly. Asking her to sit up straight, he accurately put the needle on the xinshu acupoint behind her shoulder. This was the place where the blood and qi circulating from and into the heart, located under the fifth spine of the vertebrae.
Although Kou Zhong did not understand the principles of medical science, he knew that the ‘illness of the heart’ ought to start with ‘heart acupoint’; hence as soon as he started, he selected this acupuncture point.
True qi entered in following the needle.
“Oh!” Qingqing cried out; her demeanor was touching.
Kou Zhong softly said, “I am listening!”
Shaking her head, Qingqing said, “Qie really does not want to talk about it, it will only make qie’s heart hurts even more.”
On one hand, Kou Zhong really wanted to help, on the other hand, he was also curious. Thereupon he could not help saying, “In that case, let Xiaoren guess: was it someone upholding justice and helping Madame, so much so that he saved Madame’s life, but Madame did not feel grateful at all?”
Severely shaken, Qingqing asked, “How could it be that one guess and you nailed it?”
Kou Zhong understood. Turned out it was because in the past, after he and Xu Ziling rescued her – Qingqing said bad words to them that she was stricken by guilty conscience until now. Smiling, he said, “Xiaoren merely following the tone of Madame’s voice and the state of the illness to make a guess! Madame, please close your eyes and have a good sleep. When you wake up, everything will become a thing of the past. Xiaoren dares to guarantee that Madame’s guilty feeling is totally unnecessary, because your benefactor practically did not take this matter to heart at all. Perhaps you could even meet with your benefactor again, and have a cordial and free chat with him?”
Qingqing slowly closed her beautiful eyes. Like a helpless little child she said, “Really?”
Kou Zhong transmitting his inner qi, Qingqing slumped into the chair, and fell fast asleep.
The trouble came in the form of more than a dozen men, every single one had a wooden stick in his hand, with which they were beating everybody they saw, while outside the shop another dozen or so men were holding their troop formation under the personal leadership of the Wei Shui Meng’s Union Leader Fu Di. There were also two martial art masters from Jingzhao Lian, Shi Chengshan and Gao Yue, providing assistance.
In the shop, the attendants were three Shuang Long Bang brothers. Person of noble character does not suffer injustice before his eyes, but the few are no match for the many, hence they were forced to retreat inside.
By the time Gao Zhandao and Xu Ziling, along with more than a dozen brothers from the back of the store – rushed toward the front, not a single object inside the shop was spared; even tables and chairs did not escape, everything was smashed into smithereens.
The evil men were retreating outside. Hearing the commotion, the nearby shops, which were mostly of the same trade, came over, but they only stood on a distance; angry, but not daring to speak out.
The brothers were about to rush out the shop to fight, but Gao Zhandao shouted at them, telling them to stop. He spoke in low voice to Xu Ziling, “Shall we use hard, or shall we use soft?”
Xu Ziling felt big headache. “Let’s hear what they have to say first,” he said.
Slightly nodding his head, Gao Zhandao, followed by Xu Ziling, stepped out of the shop and shouted sternly, “Fu Laoda [chief/boss], what is the meaning of this? Just this morning you sent us notification, demanding our Tong Xing She to work according to your rules in receiving and disbursing funds. And now, less than a few sichen, you came to create trouble and ransack our place, acting like you want to kill us to the last one.”
Fu Di cast a sidelong glance toward Xu Ziling’s yellow-faced man; he laughed coldly, “Any idle person who has nothing to do with this matter, get lost for Laozi first.”
Seeing how overbearing he was, Xu Ziling was enraged, but on the surface he did not show any anger. He smiled and said, “Xiaodi Yong Qin, Gao Shezhu’s [agency master] sworn brother; am I considered an idle person?”
Gao Yue, standing next to Fu Di, laughed nastily and said, “Kid is courting death!”
He was the one talking, but the one making his move was the other Jingzhao Lian’s martial art master, Shi Chengshan. This short and stout overbearing man pulled the saber hanging on his waist, and strode forward to attack; he suddenly chopped his saber down on Xu Ziling’s head.
Unexpectedly his first strike was meant to take the enemy’s life. The onlookers from the same waterborne-transport businesses immediately broke into an uproar.
Xu Ziling also strode forward to meet the attack. Under the ten-thousand-crowd’s stunned look, he imitated his Ol’ Die Du Fuwei’s ‘Universe Inside The Sleeves’; the arm protector inside the sleeve met the hacking down broadsword head-on.
Shi Chengshan’s entire body was severely shaken; the broadsword was deflected away, his person was also jolted three steps back.
While Fu Di and the others were revealing shocked expression, Xu Ziling’s pair of arm protectors stretched out swiftly to attack the opponent’s pair of eyes.
Being jolted by Xu Ziling earlier, Shi Chengshan’s blood and qi were already surging, his five viscera and six bowels felt like they were turning over. Frantically he moved his saber to block. Who would have thought that Xu Ziling’s real killer move was his leg, which, completely silently, flew out from below, the tip of his foot hit the qihai [ocean of qi] acupoint on Shi Chengshan’s lower abdomen.
Shi Chengshan howled miserably and was thrown backward; he landed among Fu Di’s troops, knocking down two men. As a result, all three of them became rolling gourd, battered and exhausted.
Aghast, Fu Di and his men turned pale. Shuang Long Bang’s brothers, as well as the onlookers, broke into loud cheers; their voices shook the long street.
Xu Ziling returned to Gao Zhandao’s side; calmly and leisurely he said, “The one courting death ought to be this fellow surnamed Shi. Later on he could forget about fighting with other people.”
The murderous intent in Fu Di’s eyes flared out; he fiercely said, “Gao Zhandao, a toast you don’t drink, a forfeit you want to drink. Do you dare to fight one-on-one with me?”
Gao Zhandao laughed aloud and said, “Fu Laoda’s remark is contradictory and ridiculous. As soon as you are here you wanted me to drink a forfeit; how can there be any toast to talk about? Even more ridiculous, you did not follow Jianghu rules, clearly you are using the big to oppress the small, your logic is no more than resorting to martial force. Based on this kind of conduct, how could you win over the people’s heart?”
Again the onlookers of the same trade roared into an ear splitting claps and cheers. Fu Di’s tyrannical attitude has aroused public outrage.
Xu Ziling’s halberd-fingers pointing at Gao Yue, who was standing by Fu Di’s side with his eyes rolling randomly – he shouted, “Gao Yue, get out here for Ol’ Yong; I want to see what qualifications you have for saying Ol’ Yong is courting death.”
The cheers and applause grew even more thunderous to boost Xu Ziling’s morale.
Gao Yue was so angry that his face alternated between red and white, yet obviously his heart was empty and timid.
In Jianghu, this kind of challenge by mentioning the name and saying the surname, even if one was fully aware that he was no match for the opponent, he simply could not back down. Without any choice he pulled the long sword hanging on his back and strode forward. Adopting a stance, he said, “Yong Qin, you’d better measure your own weigh. Daring to be our Jingzhao Lian’s enemy in Guanzhong, what could possibly be the good outcome?”
Xu Ziling coldly said, “Listening to the tone of your voice, I wonder if the one in charge in Guanzhong is actually surnamed Yang, or surnamed Li?”
As soon as these words were out, the nearly a thousand people on the street immediately became like crow and peacock make no sound; they all wanted to see how Gao Yue would respond.
Gao Yue realized that he had made a mistake. His shame turned to anger, he shouted, “Kid, give your life to me!”
Suddenly he charged forward. The long sword in his hand created three clumps of sword flowers, stabbing toward Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling dropped his strong wrist, fast as lightning the arm protector struck out from inside his sleeve.
Sweeping the opponent’s long sword away, the lower part of his body adopted a stance like he was about to kick, scaring Gao Yue that he retreated in panic, with a seeing-a-bow-reflected-in-a-cup-as-a-snake [idiom: overly fearful] attitude. Instantly he provoked another bout of hoots of laughter.
Fu Di’s countenance turned extremely unsightly. Who would have thought that he wanted to kill Yong Qin to show off their prowess, but it turned into self-humiliation instead? It was indeed beyond his expectation.
Looking at Gao Yue, who retreated more than a zhang away, Xu Ziling shook his head and said with a sigh, “Gao Xiong rolling out so far away like this, how could Ol’ Yong give my life to you?”
Gao Yue was so angry that he nearly vomited blood. He was about to charge forward again, Fu Di suddenly shouted, “Hold on!”
Gao Yue already had restraining fear toward Xu Ziling, he happily stepped down the stage. Halting his steps, he asked, “What does Fu Laoda want to say?”
Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, “Whatever you say, it’s useless, since we know that there could not possibly be any good outcome. All of us might as well rip the skin off our face in vain. Didn’t Fu Laoda want to have a one-on-one duel? If you have guts, let’s decide victory or defeat in one round. Henceforth the loser will get lost from Chang’an, and must no longer mingle and create trouble in here.”
The onlookers roared their approval; the atmosphere was blazing hot, the crowd’s emotion was surging up violently.
Behind Fu Di, his number one general Shi Bu grasped his spear and stepped out to relieve their Laoda from embarrassment. “Stinky kid!” he shouted, “You can talk after you pass this barrier of me, Shi Bu.”
Someone with a saber in his hand pushed his way from among the crowd of onlookers; laughing heartily, he said, “To kill a chicken, there’s no need to use the cow-butchering cleaver; let me, Zha Jie, serve you, this fella speaking conceited nonsense.”
Turned out Zha Jie was back.
Out of nowhere, Niu Fengyi also appeared and came to Xu Ziling’s other side.
In this area, who did not know Zha Jie? Everybody raised their voices to cheer on him.
The more than thirty men on Fu Di’s side immediately became lone-momentum, weak-force instead, caught in inferior situation where everybody was yelling at them.
Just by looking at Zha Jie’s bearing and his footwork, Xu Ziling knew that his skill has made substantial progress.
Standing next to Xu Ziling, Niu Fengyi excitedly said, “Finally two Bangzhu are here!”
Shi Bu and Zha Jie, two men, were separated by a ten-pace distance, glaring at each other like tiger watching its prey. And then both men roared together and pounced on each other. Shi Bu thrust his long spear swiftly toward the pit of Zha Jie’s stomach; it was extremely ferocious, carrying a one hundred percent power stream.
Just by looking at this one spear strike, it was obvious that this man’s martial art skill surpassed Jingzhao Lian’s Gao Yue and Shi Chengshan, two men. Who would have thought that Zha Jie’s saber moved as he wished, fully unleashing the first strike ‘Qishi Ru Hong’ [qi momentum like rainbow] of the ‘Divine Dragon’s Eight Strikes’ that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling passed on to him. Brandishing his saber, he stabbed and swept, easily deflecting the opponent’s spear. He laughed and said, “Shi Xiong must not deliberately yield; otherwise, it won’t worth it if Xiaodi unintentionally injure you!”
Seeing how brilliant Zha Jie’s saber technique was, the crowd burst into cheer and applause again.
Gaining the upper hand, Zha Jie did not spare the opponent; taking advantage while Shi Bu’s defense line was wide open, while shame and anger mixed together in his heart – he bent his waist and charged out, his long saber continued by unleashing the second strike, ‘Zhi Dao Huang Long’ [directly attack Huanglong (yellow dragon); idiom: directly combat the root of a problem]. The long saber changed its angle of attack, it went straight toward Shi Bu’s lower abdomen, forcing Shi Bu to tumble backward and lose the key moment.
One after another the men from Fu Di’s side backed down to open up more space for the two to battle each other.
Shi Bu roared violently, his spear technique changed direction, each move was a desperate move meant for both sides to die together, in his attempt to recover his bruised ego.
Zha Jie remained calm in the face of adversity; he used counterattack as means of defense. On the surface Shi Bu’s counterattacks appeared to be successful, but Xu Ziling and the others knew that Shi Bu’s strength was fading very fast, becoming a strong crossbow reaching its limit.
Sure enough, observing Shi Bu’s spear momentum was somewhat exhausted, he flashed into the opponent’s spear shadow, and then suddenly withdrew; so fast that nobody could see it clearly.
Blood splashed from Shi Bu’s shoulder, his spear fell down on the ground, he staggered and fell back.
Returning his saber into its scabbard, Zha Jie withdrew to Gao Zhandao’s side, and calmly said, “If Fu Laoda do not personally make your move, henceforth Weishui Meng need not mingle in Chang’an anymore.”
Fu Di’s countenance turned ashen, he looked at his own men helping Shi Bu up.
Gao Zhandao smiled and said, “For the next one, how about me, Gao Zhandao, accompanying Fu Laoda playing a around or two? But I would like to set up a bet; the loser will have to immediately leave Chang’an. Will Fu Laoda have enough guts to accept this challenge?”
Fu Di was like riding a tiger; it’s hard to get off. “Get the stick!” he bellowed.
Gao Zhandao flashed Xu Ziling a smile brimming with confidence; he spoke in low voice, “Time to make my move!”
Finished speaking he strode forward.
This man, who used to be a pirate, still looked like he did in the past; his long hair was draped over his shoulders, his face full of beard, a pair of short tasseled spears, which was only about five chi long each – hanging behind his back, even more hard to come by was his bearing, which was reserved and grave, but his overbearing prowess was turning into imposing manner, brimming with tension. He stood casually, immediately Fu Di, who was already lacking in confidence and losing his courage – was put into disadvantageous position.
After three years of training, Gao Zhandao, just like Zha Jie, already made the leap to become a martial art master able to assume personal responsibility. No wonder he could make a name for himself in Chang’an; furthermore, he had become a thorn in Jingzhao Lian’s side.
Fu Di roared wildly, his long stick suddenly slammed down.
This stick strike was purely to feel out the opponent. Fu Di no longer dared to despise the opponent.
Gao Zhandao took half a step forward, his pair of short spears already moved in front of his body, but the spears were still held in the shape of an ‘X’ to block the long stick head-on. The pair of slender, but thick and solid hands holding the spears was steady and powerful, not shaken the slightest bit, immediately provoking waves of cheers.
Fu Di’s long stick was jolted that it sprang high. Gao Zhandao’s pair of spears separated, fast as lightning he thrust both spears forward, forcing Fu Di to withdraw backward and fell into the passive position.
He originally wanted to send a full-power stick strike with ten-thousand-jun-thunderbolt momentum, to try to overpower the opponent in the inner power aspect; who would have thought that Gao Zhandao’s power was really high, greatly beyond his expectation. Immediately he swallowed his pent-up unspoken grievances.
Gao Zhandao was about to seize this opportunity to pursue and attack, when a loud shout came, “Stop immediately for this officer!”
Stunned, Xu Ziling looked up, and saw Er Wenhuan, wearing full government official uniform, leading more than a dozen Chang Lin Army, breaking through the crowd of onlookers, which was like a wall of people, pushing them aside as if they were venting their anger on these innocent people; inwardly Xu Ziling cried, ‘Bad!’
Sha Chenggong took this opportunity to stay at the Feng Ya Ge to fawn on Xi’er, who was originally Qingqing’s maid. Kou Zhong made an excuse that he was tired and hence went home alone, but he actually slipped away toward the Yue Ma Bridge to take a look at the situation, so that when he went to the Ministry of Works the next day to check the building information, he would already have approximate idea of what he was looking at.
Leaving Bei Li, he headed west, figuring out that if he reached the east bank of the Yong An Canal, he could walk south along the canal, and thus saved himself some pointless walk.
Meeting with Qingqing and Xi’er again, his heart was not without any sigh of sorrow. In his mind, these two ladies have never occupied any significant position; therefore, even their names he had already forgotten. However, meeting them again today at different place, a feeling of comfort and familiarity welled up in his heart. They represented the half-bitter, half-happy memory of the days before the two boys made their name, while also invoking the memory of past events in his mind.
Suddenly jolted back into the present, he focused his attention to look. The opposite bank of Yong An Canal was packed with people, the situation was very clamorous; something must be going on.
Kou Zhong’s interest was piqued; he promptly crossed the Da Qiao [lit. big bridge] spanning across the canal, toward the place where the crowd was most dense.
Right this moment, he heard Er Wenhuan’s voice, full of official prowess, saying, “Fighting in the middle of the street is a violation of the law. Everybody involved, stay where you are. Who dares to resist will be killed without question.”
Kou Zhong leaped up to take a look. The first thing he saw was Xu Ziling’s waxy-yellow face, followed by Gao Zhandao and the others. Inwardly he cried, ‘Desperately serious!’ But momentarily he could not think of any solution.